Changing equipment can disrupt a team, but Red Bull Racing and Sergio Perez have successfully added their imprint to last year’s Honda powerplant as they take over the engine building responsibilities for 2022 with an assist from Exxon/Mobil fuel technologies.
“Having Mobil with us is a strong partnership with Red Bull and has been very important to deliver one of the most competitive power units and cars that we have,” Sergio Perez told NBC Sports prior to on-track activity for the 2022 Miami Grand Prix. “We came from a really intense season last year where and we developed the cars right up until the end. Having that consistency and philosophy has been amazing.
“It was certainly a great effort done by Mobil to provide us with the right tools and the close relationship that they have with our boys really made the difference.”
As the transition began in 2021, teammate Max Verstappen was embroiled in a tight battle with Lewis Hamilton to deliver the team their first Drivers’ Championship since 2013 when Sebastian Vettel went on an incredible late-season run and won nine consecutive races at the end. He sprinted away with the title.
The competition was much tighter in 2021 with the decision still uncertain until the final restart when a controversial ending to the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix gave Verstappen his first title.
As Verstappen played a chess match with his Mercedes challenger, Perez was one of the strongest drivers in the field with podium results in three straight races from Istanbul through Mexico City and a pair of top-fives immediately following. A crash in Jeddah and an oil pressure issue in the season-ender at Abu Dhabi derailed Perez’s momentum, which was compounded by a failure to finish in the 2022 season-opener at Bahrain.
In fact, both Perez and Verstappen had fuel pump problems in the closing laps in the Bahrain Grand Prix and failed to earn any points. They bounced back in Round 2. Verstappen won the Saudi Arabia Grand Prix. Perez finished fourth and light shined on the horizon.
In Round 4, Red Bull finished 1-2 with seven different teams in the next seven positions.
🗣 “I am now fighting for poles and podiums every week, which is great motivation to keep pushing and keep focus.”#MiamiGP | @SChecoPerez pic.twitter.com/lYIj1l41RK
— Oracle Red Bull Racing (@redbullracing) May 4, 2022
It won’t take long to make up the deficit suffered in Round 1, Perez said: “We just have to keep progressing. I think we have a good package. Unfortunately, we’ve been really unlucky with reliability at the start of the season and I’ve been unlucky with fuel issues, but without those issues we have been in it for the championship – both championships.
“It’s fairly early in the season but I’m confident we have a good package.”
Red Bull chose the right time to make their change.
The surprisingly stout Ferrari duo of Charles Leclerc, who has won two of the first four Formula 1 rounds of 2022, and Carlos Sainz Jr., with two podium finishes, put them at the top of the Constructor’s battle, but by only 11 points over Red Bull. In third, Mercedes has struggled and currently sits 36 points behind the leader.
But appearances can be deceiving and Perez acknowledges there is a long season ahead and many hard-fought battles that still must be won.
“You can see the gap is such a small gap that small improvements can make a huge difference, so there’s certainly some very fast drivers up there,” Perez said.